Dragons star opens up on his off-field battles
JOEL Thompson admits he'd be in jail right now - or worse - if it wasn't for an intervention that saved his life.
As an "angry" young boy who had a rough upbringing, he was headed down a dark path where many have been lost, including his own relatives.
The St George Illawarra star has become an NRL State of Mind ambassador with a goal of shaping the lives of younger generations who have had similar experiences to his own.
But to understand where that built-up anger came from as a youngster, the NRL star takes us back to his turbulent past.
"I come from a remote town in western NSW (Ivanhoe) ... I moved around a lot with different relations," Thompson told League Life.
"I saw a lot of violence, I saw drug and alcohol abuse and different issues that affected me later on in life and shaped the person I am now.
"The battles I had, it had me in trouble at school. I had my first police interview at 13 (years old). I was definitely heading down the wrong direction.
"I was lucky enough to have (grandparents) come into my life that gave me some love and care and shelter and put me into a boarding school. That's where my footy started.
"The battles I had early on, I didn't deal with them the best way and that's why I share my story and show people it's OK to ask for help - and how life changing it was for me and to be where I am now and have a beautiful family and do what I do was because I took that step.
"It's scary to think where I'd be without doing that. That's why I'm so passionate about the State of Mind campaign and what it does out in the community."
Thompson knows if it wasn't for his wife, Amy, the demons from his past could have easily overcome him early on in his NRL career.
"If my wife didn't come into my life at that stage - I was treating myself pretty bad. She pushed me, she made me go and speak to someone," Thompson says.
"I went in there, she held my hand and I cried like a baby. It was the first time I'd cried since I lost my pop.
"It was a life-changing moment for me and it pushed me in that direction.
"I've had battles along the way where I've had to speak to someone.
"I've got two beautiful girls who give me even more motivation to be healthy and look after myself."